People sometimes ask me “how do you do it?” Meaning, how do I manage to run a design business full-time with three children, blog regularly, keep on top of emails, keep up with social media, manage a household as the main child carer, sell books, and organize fundraising events? Well I thought I’d post a few of my top tips on how to get stuff done.

Whether you’re a busy mother or not, running a business is a full time 24/7 job. Your brain is always buzzing, you’re always ‘on call’, anything can be a business opportunity and everything is networking. In my line of business I depend on client communication, client information and content plus need to work to client deadlines. I have to be incredibly flexible, able to drop everything when someone calls and requests something urgently, fit in all the actual design work, be professional, network, collaborate, plan ahead, plus carry out all the day to day business jobs including marketing and social media. So how do I do this? Here are a few top tips:

  • Schedule everything, even the emails that you need to reply to and keep your diary open on your desktop
  • Stick to your schedule as much as possible – do not get distracted by your surroundings
  • Set reminders that will alert you so you don’t forget stuff
  • Have set office hours so you’re not taking calls after 3pm
  • Get up early (or do this in the evening) and organize/plan your day/schedule social media/prepare emails etc
  • Do quick requests immediately – don’t bother sending an email saying “I can get to that next week”. Just do it there and then (obviously if you are able to), if not, then schedule it in
  • Answer calls and call people back immediately (this will alleviate the pressures of having too much to get done)
  • Plan for events that require child care ahead of time
  • Buy work clothes that don’t need to be ironed
  • Establish a good support network(s)
  • Through these networks, find businesses you can sub-contract to or collaborate with
  • Hire an admin person to help with office tasks (virtual office assistance is perfect for small businesses)
  • Use Google alerts and Bloglovin so you have a constant supply of useful articles and info to post about on social media that is relevant to your industry
  • Use helpful tools such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to help you with social media marketing – save time, be efficient
  • Set up an auto responder so people know when you will be replying to them
  • Make sure you have a dedicated space in your home to work and make it a proper ‘home office’
  • Dress like you’re going out to work – makes you feel more efficient and productivity will increase
  • Get on Facebook for business and network online with local businesses (this is also a great way of keeping up to date with events and networking opportunities in your area)
  • Take online courses and do online tutorials to help keep costs down, save time while still keeping abreast of your industry news, current business trends, and technology
  • Do not work at the weekends (or if you work on the weekends, keep two days per week free for R&R) Work hard, play hard
  • There is so much more!

And if you have babies, a lot of this can still work, you’ll just be taking more breaks. I started my business with a 20 month old and a one week old. Both still in nappies at the same time! It was hard, but that’s how I learned to multitask.

Whether you have a job or not, being a busy mother to three children is a full time 24/7 job. Especially when all three children attend three different schools! Because I work from a home office, I have the benefit (or maybe it’s not a benefit?) of being able to drop everything if the school calls, if the washing machine blows up, or if I suddenly realize there’s no food in the house. Children are demanding by nature, they need stuff, they need help, they need their mother, they also do clubs and activities and need help with all of that, the schools they attend need parental engagement and commitment. So how do I do this? Here are a few top tips:

  • Put important stuff on the fridge or on a board in the kitchen or in a central place
  • Diarize regularly
  • Teach your children and husband to diarize
  • Hold frequent but brief family meetings to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on
  • Save time by doing grocery shopping online and get it delivered
  • Shop online as much as possible to save time
  • Plan ahead so things are not last minute and therefore hectic or stressful
  • Set chores that each child knows they are responsible for (such as feeding pets or emptying the dishwasher)
  • Have a set day/time to do laundry and ironing
  • Stock the freezer and either mentally plan the week’s meals or schedule them out on paper
  • Get a slow cooker (crock pot) and a few great cookbooks
  • Prepare or prep or simply plan in your head evening meals before breakfast
  • Teach your children to cook (when they are old enough) and get them to prepare dinner once in a while
  • Create a folder for each child to put their school work, club information, award certificates etc in
  • Get a cleaner (seriously, I never thought I’d do this, but after my third child was born, it became a necessity)
  • Set alerts on your phone for remembering things like car MOT or renewing car stuff or insurances and birthdays
  • Set alerts on your phone for just about anything that you need to remember!
  • Don’t fret about how busy things are and how much you have to get done – breathe – and take things one step at a time
  • Automate as many things as possible so you’re not having to spend ages paying bills or renewing policies
  • Get online banking APP on your phone and any APP that helps to organize things and save time such as The Train Line App or JustEat (for those impossible days – at least you won’t starve your family)
  • Establish a good relationship with an IFA so if you need to ask any questions, you have someone to call
  • Flag or Star parent mail and color code for all the different schools
  • Set a regular time in the evening the same day parent mail comes in to look through it, print out anything important and talk to your children about upcoming school stuff
  • Have a stock of birthday presents and cards on hand, order an extra item when shopping online and save it for a present or mufti day contribution
  • Establish the best places to get school uniforms, school supplies etc and don’t waste time trying other things out – if it works, use it (until it stops working)
  • Spend time waiting at swimming/dance/football/clubs filling out school papers, diarizing, organizing, reading, planning etc

I’m sure there’s more…

And if you have babies, a lot of this can still work, apart from the cooking and chores of course! And, you won’t have all the school stuff to deal with.

I’m not saying I’m the perfect mother, seriously I’m so not! And things will always crop up, stuff will go wrong – that’s what happens in life. I got the parent mail from the schools mixed up last term and tried to show up for my daughter’s parent’s evening two weeks late. Er. Not good.

Anyway, hope this helps or at least inspires you in some small way. Life is hard, but there are things we can do to make it easier and enjoy it all.


Trophy awarded to me by one of my design clients 🙂

Meghan Peterson Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs with Heidi Mulligan Walker. Meghan is also the Director and Chief Designer at her own design company, Shake It Up Creative Ltd. And, she is an award winning expat blogger.